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110 Southampton to Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Travelling on an NCL ship with my husband, son aged 9 and daughter aged 7 was certainly not the family-orientated holiday we had hoped for. Let's start with the children's pool which was 4'11" at the shallow end - yes ... Read More
Travelling on an NCL ship with my husband, son aged 9 and daughter aged 7 was certainly not the family-orientated holiday we had hoped for. Let's start with the children's pool which was 4'11" at the shallow end - yes the shallow end! My husband however is 6ft tall and was unable to stand up even in the shallow end. Fine if your children are confident swimmers, but I had to buy my daughter armbands as the pool was completely unsupervised despite being so deep, and the wall around it meant that you could not see into the pool when sitting at the side. My next gripe is the Kid's Club where despite it being the first activity listed in the brochure, there was no sign of a Wii nor Xbox for the whole 14 days we were on the ship - a source of great disappointment to my son who was at the top end of the age group and wanted more than playing group games with mostly girls - yuk! My main gripe with the Kids Club however was the so called "nominal charge" while in port, which was basically nearly every day until 6 or even 8pm and for two children was $18 per hour! Hardly nominal, especially as the website indicates $8 per hour for two children. Therefore we did not use the Club unless we were at sea or in the evening which really impacted on our enjoyment of the holiday as parents who have previously been P&O customers, whose kid's clubs were free and open all day. There were also times during the day known as "family activities" when you were not allowed to enter the Kid's Club unless your child was accompanied by a parent - gee thanks NCL! A kid's Club where you have to supervise your own children - genius!There are many reasons why we will never book another NCL cruise apart from the above, and the top of the list has to be the way we were charged, and in many cases overcharged, for everything NCL could possibly squeeze more money out of us for. The drinks prices were extortionate, as were the excursions, the "duty free" shop prices, the restaurant surcharges, the tips, the spa treatments, Internet Cafe and Laundry services ($1.95 for a pair of socks and unlike P&O ther is no laundry room where you can use a washer/drier). Ok, you don't HAVE to buy drinks, you don't HAVE to eat in the resturants, but the overall feeling was that you were being ripped off left right and center, and it's not a good feeling, it really spoils your holiday.Another thing that spoils your holiday on the Jade is the general attitude of the staff - you are made to feel that you are a bit of an inconvenience to them unless you are handing over money. The staff will walk across in front of you stopping you in your tracks, and continue with their jobs even if they are in your way. They are not openly rude, but are certainly often inconsiderate and surly. And woe betide you if you try to complain about anything at reception - they will suddenly be unable to understand english and be charmingly useless.The food on the Jade was boring, mundane and repetitive. Very, very repetitive. Very. No doubt trying to force you to spend what would often be a cover charge of $100 for our family to eat in an alternative restaurant.          NCL's attitude to going ashore seems to be "go on our excursions or we will make your trip ashore as difficult as possible". The information available about the ports was minimal and usually incorrect, which is a problem if you have never visited that port before, and it became clear that this sabotage was deliberate. We were frequently told that there was no shuttle bus, only to find this was not true. We were told that the centre of Lisbon was a 10 minute walk from the ship, it was in fact at least 3km away. We were told that the center of Gibraltar was 10 minutes walk, and the cable car not far from there. It took us over an hour to walk back to the ship from the cable car in boiling heat - thanks NCL! We were not told that there was a lovely sandy beach next to where the tender dropped us off at Cannes, we therefore had to turn round and go back to the ship for our beach gear. Time and again the information was incorrect and made the visits to the ports less enjoyable than they should have been.I would not recommend a cruise on the Norwegian Jade, nor with NCL at all. We paid over £3000 for our cruise, but it felt like a budget cruise and was not a patch on our previous cruise experience with P&O - if you are considering an NCL cruise my advice is - DON'T! Try P&O or Royal Carribean instead.  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Cruise J824 - Arcadia - Dec 20th 2008 to Jan 5th 2009 Embarkation We arrived at the terminal in Southampton at 2:10 pm to find a huge queue ahead of us. When we finally entered the terminal building the check in desks were unmanned, ... Read More
Cruise J824 - Arcadia - Dec 20th 2008 to Jan 5th 2009 Embarkation We arrived at the terminal in Southampton at 2:10 pm to find a huge queue ahead of us. When we finally entered the terminal building the check in desks were unmanned, staff were milling about but no announcements were made regarding the delay for at least an hour. Asking a staff member we were told there were "technical issues" and they couldn't embark anyone at the present time. A few clowns were present to entertain the waiting masses but cold drinks would have been more appropriate. The building was very hot and not even cold water was available. The usual procedure took place at check in, photo for ship pass, registration of credit card etc. 2 days into the cruise we received a call from reception saying they had no record of our registered credit card on the system, it seems our credit card details were lost somewhere between check in at Southampton and the ships database. When we questioned the staff on reception about this once again their response was "technical issues", poor show P&O. At 4:40 we finally got on board only to find the lifeboat drill had taken place, no other drills were arranged for the passengers who had missed this vital information. A 2 hour 30 minute wait to embark is inexcusable. Cabin The cabin (D-deck with balcony) was spacious with plenty of wardrobe space. Luggage fitted easily under the bed with room to spare. Adequate lighting in the bathroom, shower had good pressure and was easy to use. A range of Temple Spa toiletries were present, only the shower gel was replenished. The balcony was showing signs of wear, peeling paint. One small table and 2 chairs took up the majority of balcony space available. Good sized fridge. Decent size, height adjustable table in the cabin. The bed was very comfortable, pillows soft yet supportive. Overall the cabin was clean, fresh and inviting. Our cabin steward was a real gem and easily the most professional crew member we encountered aboard the ship. Entertainment The entertainment aboard ranged from poor to outstanding but most of it was aimed toward the more mature passenger with very little provided for those not in their twilight years. To any readers under 50, I would suggest doing some research on alternative cruises before doing a cruise on Arcadia. Other member reviews have said the same thing and I can only echo their warning. It does seem to be a ship of mainly older folk, average age was around 75. Our first day at sea had a fluid retention and swollen ankles talk in the spa, if you were out of there by 11 am you could head up to The Crow's nest for a game of bingo. Headliners Theatre Group, the ships entertainers, were outstanding. Each cast member was an accomplished vocalist and competent dancer. All the shows they performed were wonderfully executed with superb costumes and sets. Highlights of the cruise were the performances given by Gerald Dickens, great great grandson of Charles Dickens. His performance of 'A Christmas Carol' on Christmas day was joyous and worthy of the West End. It's just a pity that the other entertainment provided in the various bars around the ship was so mundane. Not everyone enjoys listening to repeated sets of what sounded like elevator music day after day. The refit of Arcadia allowed P&O to provide a small cinema on deck 3. As it only seats 30 people you have to get there early in order to ensure a seat. The seats recline and are very comfortable...if you can get one. An annoying thing was the extreme rudeness of some passengers who would barge in 5 minutes before the end of the previous film with no thought to the passengers already there and enjoying the end of the movie they had chosen to watch. On more than one occasion the wrong movie was shown and staff had to be informed, as they didn't hang around to check they were actually playing the correct film. A cinema on board is a great idea but pointless to have one that seats 30 on a ship that carries 2000 passengers. The cabin TV was supposed to have a dedicated channel devoted to movies, Christmas movies especially. When we tried to watch channel 9, all that we saw was a screen of interference. When we called reception to ask about the problem we were told that channel 9 wouldn't be available for the entire cruise, it's a "technical issue", seems that term was the answer to any query P&O encountered. The Disco was usually always empty and seemed to be a complete waste of space, extending the casino into the disco area would be a better utilization of that area of deck 2. As it is the casino is very small with an outdated selection of slot machines. A Christmas Bazaar was listed as a shopping experience to take place in the upper level of the Meridian restaurant. We were disappointed to see that this shopping extravaganza was merely the shop inventory laid out on some of the restaurant tables with nothing new whatsoever. The newly extended Aquarius deck was the main venue for Hogmanay celebrations. The generally friendly fellow passengers and crew enjoyed many hours of music and dancing. The party went on into the wee small hours as can be testified to by the Alpha alert over the tannoy system at 4 am, it seems there was a passenger in difficulty after falling down some stairs We got chatting to long standing P&O diehards who mentioned that this was the first New Year party on a P&O ship that they were not given a free drink. The consensus seems to be that the standards are dropping year by year with passengers being charged for more extras. Crew The majority of the crew we encountered were polite and friendly with the exception of an extremely rude member of the photography team. Our cabin steward couldn't be faulted; waiters were pleasant and chatty once we got to know then. Our wine waitress left a lot to be desired, on more than one occasion drink orders from ourselves and our table companions were completely forgotten by her and she only remembered as we passed her on the way out of the restaurant. Some crew had a personal hygiene problem; we noticed this numerous times. 3 separate barmen had a particularly strong B.O odor that was quite off-putting. Ship and dEcor The ships dEcor was fresh and bright, plenty of Christmas decorations and trees on every deck added to the festive atmosphere. Beautiful sculptures in the lower entrance to the theatre that are easily missed if you enter theatre on a higher deck. Lots of interesting artwork around the ship, it's certainly worth walking around all the decks to have a look at what's on display. It was easy to see the ship had been re carpeted throughout. P&O must have encountered a problem on deck 2. Just at the Spinnaker Bar, there was an extremely obvious musty smell coming from the carpet, which they tried to rectify by having an industrial drying machine plugged in for the first week of the cruise. The toilets near the Globe on deck 2 were also experiencing problems, the stink passengers encountered when passing them was horrific Food The food in the Belvedere was plentiful but not of the highest quality. A lot of the cakes on offer had synthetic cream and were not at all appetizing. The selection available from midnight onwards tended to be dried out and uninspiring food that looked like it had come from the local freezer center. Salads and fresh fruit were of good quality as were the accompaniments, coleslaw, bean salad etc. Long queues were not apparent, we seldom had to wait for more than 1 minute to reach the food we were in line for. The juice dispenser in the Belvedere was switched off at 12 noon, I must say that this was rather mean and penny pinching of P&O, there can be no other reason to switch of the juice other than to increase passenger spending on drinks over lunchtime. Some of the best lunchtime food was available at the Neptune Grill, always fresh and cooked to order. A particular favorite there was the blueberry cheesecake, very tasty indeed and of much higher quality than the desserts in the Belvedere. The Meridian didn't live up to expectations. The dreaded potato croquettes that have been mentioned on the forums, accompanied dinner on the first night. They are of very poor quality indeed and have no place on an evening dinner menu of a cruise ship. Fellow dining companions ordered the steak one evening. What they received could have been hidden under a small bread roll, it was tiny! Food in general in the Meridian ranged from distinctly average to a few excellent dishes. The Indian food was especially good; the Dhal soup was one of the best I've ever eaten. Afternoon tea was a huge letdown. Hard, tasteless scones, small cakes with synthetic cream and measly filled sandwiches were the order of the day. The vegetarian sandwich was Rocket, one Rocket leaf between 2 slices of bread. I asked the waitress for some cheese sandwiches only to be told that I would need to order them 24 hours ahead. When we spend 3k per person on a cruise we don't expect to have to give a days notice for a sandwich. As I am a vegetarian, I informed my travel agent and also called P&O in person to inform them of this fact. Despite doing so I didn't receive the vegetarian menu until the 5th night, neither the staff in the restaurant or the staff on reception had any record of my dietary requirements. Yep, you've guessed it, technical issues were to blame. Come on P&O spend some money on competent admin staff and computer systems that actually work. During the last sea day passengers could enjoy a galley tour and a chocolate buffet. After previously cruising with Celebrity I expected big things from the chocolate buffet, sadly it was another indication of cost cutting measures. The layout wasn't at all spectacular with more of those thawed out gateaux that can be seen in every supermarket in the land. One or two pleasing ice sculptures couldn't lift the lackluster affair of the tasteless selection on offer. Ports We didn't book any of the P&O excursions preferring to do our own thing. Every port had regular free shuttle buses provided by P&O. Ports of call varied. Palma was a washout, being Boxing Day everywhere was closed and it rained incessantly. Our favorite had to be Malta, beautiful harbor and surprisingly warm weather for the time of year. Certainly a place we shall return to. We arrived in Barcelona on the morning of the 30th of December expecting to leave again as 2am on January 1st. Due to mechanical problems with a generator we didn't leave Barcelona till almost 5pm on January 1st, a full 15 hours behind schedule. As a result of this delay our last post of call was cancelled. Each passenger received £100 as an apology for not getting to Vigo. £40 per person was also refunded during the cruise; this fuel supplement refund was deducted off your shipboard account. The cruise log that each passenger receives at the end of the cruise mentioned nothing of the delay. It states "Arcadia extended her call in Barcelona until late afternoon, allowing a whole extra day for the opportunity for passengers to go ashore" That's not the case, passengers had to be back on board by 1:30-2:00, rather economical with the truth there P&O Disembarkation Disembarkation was smooth considering the number of passengers onboard. Passengers are given color-coded cards the night before with your time to disembark on them. Luggage in the terminal building is sorted according to your deck so is easy to find. In conclusion all I can say is that this was our first cruise with P&O...and our last. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Just returned from a 14 day tour of the Med on the Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. Having sailed in one of the giants last year (QM2) we were keen to give the latest biggest cruise ship a try. Well lets just say that ... Read More
Just returned from a 14 day tour of the Med on the Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. Having sailed in one of the giants last year (QM2) we were keen to give the latest biggest cruise ship a try. Well lets just say that biggest isn't best. Not to say that our latest adventure wasn't enjoyable - it was, and much of what we got was just as expected and of a good standard. But there are so many negatives concerning the Royal Caribbean operation. Cunard they are certainly not, they are not even on the same page. They are the nautical equivalent of a travel lodge with a few more amenities. Much of what was included in the price wasn't actually used by us, but much of what was available - was only in fact available at an additional cost. As a guest I found myself being part of the target group, with the well-honed sales team keen to make a killing on maximizing revenue. You can imagine all their team-building exercises, staff appraisals and target setting going on a daily basis behind the façade of the cruise, with lots of high-fives and hooting and hollering before making their sales pitch. To be greeted with the Disneyesque "enjoy your breakfast", "how are you today", and the stomach-churning classic "have a nice day", was not my idea of enhancing the dining experience. To make matters worse, it was usually offered by a singing welcome-host who I never saw do anything else on the entire cruise. God only knows what the position she applied for was. The fact is, such greetings usually limited my food intake in case of sudden nausea brought on by the in-your-face and over-the-top greetings that were rammed down your throat with all the sincerity of a McDonalds employee. Ugh ! I am familiar with lift music that is usually the preserve of major hotels and larger department stores. Sometimes it can be dismissed without possibly meaning to do so. Possibly a subconscious reaction. It is usually nondescript and completely forgettable background music that is unobtrusive unless you allow it to be, when in a moment of weakness you may even hum along or tap your feet, hopefully out of sight to other punters of course. Royal Caribbean have gone the extra mile and made all their lift music completely obtrusive, mirroring the antics of many of their staff. In your face, nauseating and completely pointless, but obviously appealing to the younger clientele who saw the lifts as some kind of evening entertainment facility. You can usually get an indication of a company by the way in which it deals with any complaints. Customer service usually begins with, "the customer is always right," even if they are not. Well, Royal Caribbean seem to tackle any points raised with an immediate defensive stance, or "please fill in all these forms in triplicate," so that any desire to voice concerns or see the person in charge is completely stone-walled with an intricate defense mechanism. My wife commented on some marks on her wine glass one evening, and the Assistant Waiter, the Waiter, and the Head Waiter all suggested that this is how they come out of the dishwasher. There was no "I'm sorry madam, I'll get you a clean one" - but an immediate defense response, and a slight suggestion that such trivial concerns shouldn't really be raised. Hands up who would put dish-washer stained glasses or cutlery on their dinner table. Exactly. So come on Royal Caribbean - don't defend the indefensible. Then again it is possible that perhaps my wife should have apologized for noticing the offending stains and made her point quietly on her way out of the dining room and out of earshot to other guests. It wasn't as though she was asking for a mass-suicide of the kitchen staff, she was merely pointing out that her glass was dirty. On a positive note, after this incident it would appear that they managed to repair the faulty dish-washer as there was no repeat performance. A picture is emerging. But before more of the bad things lets look at some of the good ones. The entertainment team are very good - the resident band are superb - particularly the drummer. The standard of acts again was good, and the ice show outstanding. The food at breakfast and lunch was taken in the Windjammer area and was of good standard with plenty of choice - although the welcome host became annoying to say the least, and the plastic crockery was not in keeping with the attempted splendor. Even the coffee mugs were plastic, although you could venture all the way down to other end of the promenade and find a more appropriate receptacle for beverages. Sorry I was meant to be concentrating on the good, but seem to have wandered off again. The staterooms were excellent and the house staff were proficient in their housekeeping service, and were genuinely polite and amiable people - well done to all. The main dining room was a grand affair on three levels and the standard of service was generally good - with more appropriate crockery and fortunately the wine wasn't served in plastic cups. The onboard facilities were generally of a good standard with an attempt made to offer both fun and quiet areas for all guests. The central promenade was interesting and proved popular with the guests, although to me it was like wandering around an out-of-town shopping mall which isn't exactly everyone's cup-of-tea, but was something novel on-board The information was also very clear and of a good standard, from the daily publications to the gust service staff. Unfortunately it's now back the bad. Royal Caribbean need to get one of their employees to be a guest on a cruise - they will certainly benefit from the experience, and they will undoubtedly hear the numerous whisperings from disgruntled guests around the ship, who then seem content to just put up with it. Royal Caribbean's bizarre defense mechanism will eventually do more them harm than good. Don't remind people that they are having a great time or inform them of the "superb entertainment". Let guests make up their own minds, but be ready to respond when necessary. It called customer service. We were fawned all over during evening dinner service as to whether or not we were enjoying our meals. My attitude is that if I'm eating it I'm enjoying it - stay away. If I'm not enjoying it I'll let you know. On one evening I was asked by three separate members of staff as to whether I was enjoying my meal. Such distractions and the time taken to respond on each occasion interrupted my meal and the general table conversation. I also don't wish to be mithered as to whether I want some more wine pouring. I can perform this function quite adequately myself - and can even turn the bottle to avoid any spillage. Greet, take orders, deliver drinks, deliver food, bon appetite, and a fond farewell. But be around to deal with any issues. Not too much to ask is it. Nobody interrupted the evening entertainment to ask whether or not I was enjoying the show, and I cannot recall any of the bar staff enquiring as to my satisfaction with the drinks that I had ordered. So is the over-zealous attention in the dining room being polite, over the top, or the assumed standards that Royal Caribbean think they should set or aspire to? Well I'm of the opinion that it is the latter, although they miss the mark completely. As regards staff availability and attention, when the queues were mounting up for disembarkation on the tenders at Villefranche, tempers seemed to be rising and the Royal Caribbean staff were conspicuous by their absence. A result of the latest training initiative perhaps. When there's going to be a problem - hide. If I nip down to my local hostelry and someone offers me a drink I am usually grateful and may even reciprocate later in the evening. On Royal Caribbean ships beware waiters bearing drink filled trays offering you cocktails. "Ooh thanks very much". Then they bring you a bill for a drink they offered you, which you probably wouldn't have ordered if you had decided to venture to the bar. You can keep your rummy-rummy in future. I got fed up with continual market-trader baying by the free-range cocktail waiters out on the deck offering their wares. It was rather akin to the lucky-lucky men that proliferate so many of the tourist hotspots around the Med nowadays The meals in the main restaurant were adequate and occasionally good, but became increasingly familiar during the cruise. The non-popular choices seemingly remained on the menu instead of just being lost in the self-service Windjammer buffet. The biggest issue on board was with the sheer number of unsupervised kids. Perhaps the issue was therefore the parents of these little miscreants. Lets face facts, no kid actually paid anything for their cruise. Their parents paid. So once they have ditched their folks, why are they still treated as equals on board? As friendships grew some areas became similar to the street corners back home with hoards of teenagers pushing older guests out of lifts, trying to coerce other guests into buying them alcohol, and generally being a nuisance to guests who had actually paid out of their own pockets. The ship has a running track on the uppermost deck, although the kids preferred the stateroom corridors. Lifts also provided a great deal of free fun - press every floor button and the run away. Alternatively just hold the doors open on the top floor. Adult only zones were located at various parts of the ship, which were obviously meant to put off other the kids and not the ones that chose to ignore the signs. Perhaps Royal Caribbean needs to define what they mean by the term adult. Old? Over 18, 21 or 25? Being a parent, being married or in a civil partnership, or having a proper job? It seems a cop-out to me to use the term adult as there are so few on any holiday nowadays. Perhaps it means someone who is considerate to others, or even conscious of anyone outside their little tribal gathering. To me it probably means me and perhaps my wife and then hopefully the captain, one or two of the staff and ideally other like-minded guests muttering obscenities under their breath. If you can answer the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" with an answer that is in the present tense, then you probably are an adult, or as near as one can get. As for the kids it is their parents that are ruining them with such lavish treats as a way of extolling their own prowess in modern society. Cruising is not really for kids despite what the adverts say and the extensive range of activities on board. Kids belong at Euro-Camp, Disneyworld, All-inclusive hotels or Butlins. As I said, kids haven't paid anything themselves, but they can get free soda, ice-cream and pizza all day long, and a dedicated pool area offering all the fun of an adventure park. There were some classic quotes overheard from some patronizing parents; "Don't you think you've had enough ice-creams this morning", "Try not to have just chips today", "Florence will be a great trip - you can even try some Italian ice-cream" Just a few gems that probably say more about the parents than it does about the kids. These families are seemingly not from the seedier suburbs, but appear to be from affluent backgrounds with even a smattering of education. Unfortunately the kids seem to expect their world of treats, and probably demand one better than last year or just keep up with their school friends, "cos Tarquin did a cruise last year". Their parents seem to want to use their holiday experience of taking the kids on a cruise as some collateral in their bawdy recollections back home at the Golf-Club or Gym. Funnily enough, the kids on board appear to have similar role models to those less fortunate teenagers back home - Amy Winehouse, Vicky Pollard et al. Any direct complaints to the dear little lambs were met with the usual "Am I bothered" routine. Unfortunately I wasn't met with any such retorts, so I wasn't able to suggest that "if only your opinion mattered," as a suitable put-down. Royal Caribbean security staff were invisible in the main, although they were more than active at the ports, whilst you were getting on and off the ship. You would like to think they could easily address the issue of massed ranks of unsupervised kids. Just before daybreak, you could apparently watch many parents prowling the corridors in search of their offspring who had not yet returned to their stateroom. Occasionally, bags of discarded clothes sent shockwaves through concerned mothers until the little miscreants were finally tracked down, so that they could shower, get changed and do it all over again. The only time when parents were asked to take responsibility for a child's behavior was before a show started with a announcement for parental control over the PA. This wasn't actually policed though and I can hardly sit in judgement on Royal Caribbean when it is merely more evidence of social breakdown. More alarmingly, I reckon the parents would no doubt be more defensive than Royal Caribbean on hearing any complaints, if not abusive about being questioned on their parenting ability. For the record I'm not anti-kid - I have at least 5, and have done my stint of holidays of all types with my own squad of little tykes, so for those accusing me of not knowing what parenting is about, believe me I'm suitably qualified Well back to the cruise itself. The brochure has you conjuring up an illusion of a floating hotel with a new destination being served up as you awake on the next leg of your cruise. So you book a cruise to visit all these fascinating places that unfortunately you sometimes don't actually get to see. You usually find yourself moored up against a harbor wall with a view of a container port, with a possible glimpse of the glossy destination you so longingly wanted to visit. You may have to stand on the balcony furniture or adjourn to the upper most decks to catch a view of the cathedral dome using some high magnification binoculars. So your cruise doesn't actually take you where they tell you in the brochures - you must pay more to get into the town - ie Lisbon, Barcelona, Gib, Livorno. I have some excellent footage of the cranes in operation at Barcelona and Malaga, to the tuneful accompaniment of reversing sirens on the fork-lift-trucks or the container cranes. It is completely at the other end of the spectrum to your envisaged docking location. Why did the adjacent ship at the port of Livorno only charge 1 Euro for the shuttle bus, whereas Royal Caribbean charged 5 dollars each way? Someone made a formal complaint in triplicate which was posted in the relevant complaints box - which probably is linked directly to the effluent discharge. Admittedly, sometimes the shuttle was free - but this was a gesture of the town rather than a service laid on by Royal Caribbean. A nice gesture in order to get the tourists to part with their hard-earned Euros in the town center, but most welcome all the same. As you leaf through the brochures you are promised excellent service, cuisine and entertainment on board ship, although occasionally I would forgo some of this for a brief go on the internet, which was at an additional cost and extortionate to say the least. Just a little free googling and emails isn't too much to ask for, rather than yet another ice extravaganza - all teeth and knickers, or rolling out some has-beens or in some cases never-was's. I would also liked to have opened a bottle of red on my balcony instead of being blasted every night by music and lights, but any booze you try and take on board gets confiscated and the bar prices can be expensive for a nice bottle of wine ($40 on board - £3 a bottle in Gib) So, somethings that you yearn for you are denied and instead you are led on a tailored holiday experience that is tailored to ramp up your bill. Comfortable air-conditioning is provided in the casino to encourage you stay and lose any winnings, although it can get uncomfortably warm on the promenade in order to entice you to quench your thirst at one of the bars. So for 14 nights, you can generally pay up to £2000 per person, sometimes more sometimes less. They then hope to get half as much again from your on board account. So cater for at least 25% of your cruise cost to cover the so called extras. Then there's the tips. Royal Caribbean even offer a pre-paid gratuity service for their staff. When I booked the cruise there was a promise of excellent standards. This standard was never exceeded on the cruise so I feel I've already purchased the service with the booking and to me a tip is for going above and beyond. This was never achieved and the service was just as described on the tin so to speak. Why don't Royal Caribbean pay their staff a decent salary rather than rely on customers to make up their apparent shortfall in staff wages. In order to maximize Royal Caribbean shareholder dividends, they pay their staff minimum wage and rely on the grand old tradition of tipping to ensure that their staff can make ends meet by expecting the customers to stump up a bit extra for the guys that expertly manage to get a cork out of a bottle, or bring a plate of food to your table containing exactly what you ordered, or the noble art of making a bed and hovering the carpet. I really don't know how I mange this same level of service myself at home. And it's a real shame I never got the opportunity to stuff a $20 bill into the Captain's top pocket, "Well steered and thanks for staying up all night driving the boat." As a reminder of Royal Caribbean's "green" stance we were continually reminded to "save the waves" and limit towel washing requirement and wasting water, and we even initially participated in this with some enthusiasm. However, after the captain discharged the effluent tanks once 16 miles off land, we became disturbed by the sheer hypocrisy and were immediately put off the prospect of "catch of the day" for our evening meal. I'm sure that any discharge conforms to all relevant international standards and the company could wheel out some marine biologist of undoubted repute in order to praise the marine conservation efforts of Royal Caribbean. But the aroma that confronted us on deck during one part of the voyage was particularly unwelcome, but not nearly as unwelcome as my wife's line of enquiry as to whether I was responsible for the offending smell. So, use as many towels as you want - it's your holiday. All in all, a good experience - but you have been warned. If you've got this far and want to do a cruise with the kids - Royal Caribbean is probably for you, although in reality you probably haven't read this far. Royal Caribbean should remember that their cruise is not for affluent dummies eager to part with cash to purchase tawdry goods, tours and unwanted chattels. They need to understand the term "guests" and in my experience such people don't mind buying things, but definitely don't like being sold it. If you want a top drawer cruise with less kids - try Cunard, Princess or Norwegian. Although Thomson Holidays apparently offer adult only cruises but on much smaller ships - but then again what exactly is an adult? Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
This was our 10+ cruise, but the first on NCL. I chose this cruise for the itinerary, and that's really the only good thing I have to say about it. I STRONGLY recommend another cruise line if you want any type of decent service and ... Read More
This was our 10+ cruise, but the first on NCL. I chose this cruise for the itinerary, and that's really the only good thing I have to say about it. I STRONGLY recommend another cruise line if you want any type of decent service and food. EMBARKATION-Very fast but there are no cabin numbers on your card which I found a little annoying. CABIN/DECOR-We had a mini suite which was actually a very nice room. It had a balcony, a king sized bed and a small sitting area with an extremely hard sofa bed couch. The best part of the room was the bathroom, which was a decent size and had a tub-shower combination and a sliding glass door to separate the toilet from the shower and vanity area. The decor of the ship has not changed since they moved this from Hawaii, so tacky flowers and nothing having remotely anything to do with Europe could be found. FOOD-This was really terrible, and we felt forced to go to the restaurants that charged a "cover" due to the crowds at the free venues. Every day at the buffet (morning, noon, or night) they would run out of plates and glasses, and the restaurants were terribly understaffed. The food mostly caters to a British crowd, which curries and black pudding and the like abounding, but nary anything really palatable for Americans. The thing that really irritated us was that the rule of "no shorts in any restaurant except the buffet" seemed to be enforced only when there was a wait for that restaurant. Reservations were lost and there was no one that stayed at the front long enough to even answer a question. All in all, an inefficient mess every day. Hint-if you want to try the specialty restaurants, go between 5:30 and 6:30 when it's 2 for 1. I would also stay away from Shabu-Shabu, as our dish tasted like some noodles and a few veggies dunked in hot water (totally devoid of flavor). Cagney's (steakhouse) was OK, and the Papa's Italian and Jasmine were actually pretty decent. SERVICE (or lack thereof!)-This was abominable. I mean to sit in a "paying" restaurant (with a reservation I might add) for at least 10 minutes without being acknowledged or even given a glass of water is inexcusable! It also took 4 DAYS to get laundry back-and this was only after several phone calls and a visit to reception. I spoke to many others on the ship with similar (or worse) experiences. The amenities in the room are virtually non existent, and our room steward even refused to get us a bar of soap when requested. Also to me, if you put out an express room service ticket for breakfast at a certain time, there should be no reason to call 30 minutes prior to let me know it is coming (I knew what time I requested didn't I?). In general the attitude of the staff was unfriendly and largely unconcerned. ENTERTAINMENT-I can honestly say in a two week period, I have never seen so many in-cabin movies because there was nothing else to do! The comedians were mediocre and there were really no activities except for "NCL U" events that were mostly fee based (nothing educational unless you want to learn about beer or mixing martinis). I found the sea days INCREDIBLY boring. Even the selection in the on-board shops was inferior. PORTS OF CALL-We loved Barcelona, Rome, Florence, and even Vigo, but we probably could have done without Gibraltar, Villafranche, and Lisbon. This was our first time to Europe, so we booked a bunch of tours which were quite expensive. A disturbing fact to be noted is that the shuttles from the port to the towns in most cases were not free like on other cruise lines. If this is anything other than your first cruise and you have NO EXPECTATIONS then here is my summary. This ship is a skipper Gilligan, so if you choose it good luck! Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
There were 10 of us in our party (inc 2 children) We have only ever cruised with Royal Caribbean International before so thought this mini cruise to France would give us a feel for NCL (and also persuade our friends that cruising is a ... Read More
There were 10 of us in our party (inc 2 children) We have only ever cruised with Royal Caribbean International before so thought this mini cruise to France would give us a feel for NCL (and also persuade our friends that cruising is a great way to spend a holiday!) The price was great and NCL upgraded us all to BB balcony staterooms (no complaints there) Arrived at the port at around 11.00 and was on the ship within 1 hour (everything very easy at Southampton, parked the car in the official car park- 10 minutes walk from the terminal) Complimentary champagne was a nice touch on entering the ship (have to pay on RCI) Read other reviews and took lunch in Grand Pacific dining room - fairly swift service but portions were very small! As there were 10 of us asked if we could have a large table or 2 pushed together - they refused and we had to eat on 2 separate tables (not the end of the world but nevertheless would have been nice to sit together) Then made reservations for the Teppanyaki later that day and Carney's Saturday night all no problem Staterooms-all very nice and comfortable (although much smaller than RCI) Expected fresh fruit and robes as advertised (not available on this cruise- neither was room service) Entertainment- Cruise Director and staff fairly non-existent (sail away "party" consisted of a small group and singer and a handful of staff dancing to a couple of songs) 2 shows in theatre (only saw "shout" which was excellent, but again no warm up by entertainment staff and CD only spoke for a couple of minutes afterwards (to advertise the casino!) Staff- it became apparent that the ship was vastly understaffed (had a lot of them been given time off for the 2 days?) It was very difficult to get drinks in the theatre (there was more staff selling scratch cards) and lounges. Facilities- kids club closed! Lounges all very clean although very garish (Hawaiian theme) When around the pool no glasses or plates collected all day and no white wine or wine glasses available!! Guest Relations- Never smiled, no-one knew where to queue (did not have a roped off queuing system) We had to visit them 5 times re problems with our key cards and had to queue on each occasion. When we asked for a feedback form they gave us a blank sheet of paper! (I wonder why they do not want any feedback?) Food- Teppanyaki and Cagney's -excellent no complaints. Buffet- food very nice. Breakfast total nightmare. On the first day had breakfast in the Blue Lagoon, there was a long line managed to get a table in appx 20 minutes. The waitress was quite off and immediately said the breakfast would take a while (shortage of staff?) Was very rude when we asked for our toast etc etc. On the final day (before disembarkation) it was bedlam- queue for main dining room was about 1 hour wait (only the outside tables were being used in the dining room (lack of staff?) Buffet was like a war zone nowhere to sit- no coffee available in some of the machines, no glasses, or fruit juices For the money I suppose "you get what you pay for" However I would have thought NCL would have pulled out all the stops as the majority of guests were taking the cruise as a "taster" The staff just did not seem interested (unless they were in the "cover charge" restaurants, or serving you drinks-15 % gratuity automatically added) All in all we did enjoy the weekend (mainly because of the friends we were with) Will we cruise NCL again? No! Would we recommend NCL? No!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
After cruising with several different lines (celebrity, princess, royal Caribbean and crystal), we wanted to try out the QM2 because of the hype that it was. The tagline itself says the most luxurious ocean liner. We had high expectations ... Read More
After cruising with several different lines (celebrity, princess, royal Caribbean and crystal), we wanted to try out the QM2 because of the hype that it was. The tagline itself says the most luxurious ocean liner. We had high expectations cause price-wise, QM2 would be considered a higher-end ship compared to the more mass-marketed ships. I will start with the good: - Stateroom was clean, bathroom was clean, the bedding was comfortable, and they greeted you with a bottle of sparkling wine. All the necessary facilities were there, plus there were slippers which usually signify luxury. Chocolates at the end of the day every night were the treats. - We did not have to queue long for food which means good flow of passengers. - Dress code for dinner was strictly enforced. That means no jeans, slippers and shorts even on casual nights (cause they called it elegant casual). Now the bad: - Service. I experienced a lot of bad service at all levels from this ship. Mostly found on the 7th floor buffet area by the waiters there. Example, I needed help getting a slice of pizza but the waiter there just said that it's self service and did not offer any help. Another example, my dad was waiting in line to be served and was skipped completely by the serving waiter for no reason whatsoever. Most of the ships that I have been to have their crew greet you, but I found few greetings by the crew aboard QM2. I could go on and on, but I would say the service at QM2 is the worst I've ever experienced, save for my stateroom steward and my dining table waiter. - Layout. I don't know who designed the layout of this ship, but found it to be quite funky and "interesting." All the other ships' gym would have full 180 deg view of the ocean, but at QM2 gym, you only get partial view and the rest can be happy looking at the mirror. The exercise classes were not held at the gym or near the gym, but on the 1st floor near the entrance to the crew area. This room is also sometimes used as the disembarkation points/x-ray checks during ports of call. To reach the library or Todd English the restaurant, you had to travel through other people's staterooms corridors. The grand lobby is hardly grand considering how small the lobby was. - Food. The so-called Chinese food was always the same, except that they call it by different names just by changing the type of noodles used. And please put some exhaust in the area, your clothes would smell like the kitchen everytime you go to the Asian section of the dining area (lotus). Room service menu was very limited. All in all, I would not recommend this ship to others. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to ... Read More
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to underestimating the amount of baggage to be loaded. The ship is huge and 90% of it is done very well. Two spacious show lounges plus the theatre. Unfortunately, despite P&O adding an additional performance at each of the shows (three times a night instead of two) the theatre and lounges are not enough for 3,200 passengers. The old activities of flower arranging and making a corsage for Ladies Night have been replace with computer skills, circus lessons, etc. Shore excursions were fine from our perspective and there is a much wider choice than a few years ago. We tried the new "Freedom Dining" option which worked reasonably well although "freedom" meant 7.00 pm or 9.00 pm usually and only if you booked at 8.00am two days in advance. Entertainment was a mix of good and bad...not sure the punk rock group was such a good idea. Martin Gold was quite a funny comedian but some of the others were rubbish. Steward service in the bars was good. The ship did not seem as clean as other P & O ships. Now to my subjective view. Ventura is essentially Butlins at sea. P& O have made a great mistake with this ship with their obvious intention to grow their business outside of the established model. I may be wrong but only if they think they can fill this ship every cruise with families with children, and then only those who are happy that there is no control over their children. It is full at the moment because P&O's loyal cruisers are trying it out as well as their new demographic group. In the whole two weeks we were on board I did not hear one "cruiser" say anything other than they would never cruise on her for a second time. We ourselves have cancelled a cruise on Ventura booked for next year. Children are everywhere, the lounges, all the pools, Jacuzzis used as paddling pools....family friendly maybe...but not children controlled surely!! It just doesn't have the feel of the other ships...like it has dropped down a class. No risk assessments can have been done as children as young as two are allowed to jump into the pools without supervision. I wonder when the first major accident will happen. None of the pools are shallower than 6 feet and the very small children's paddling pool was closed throughout the cruise. There are no adult only bars. The poor replacement for a Crows Nest bar on other P&O ships (Metropolis) was full with children running and playing. Very sophisticated...NOT. There are not enough sun beds even though they are packed in like sardines and, unlike other P&O liners, no one stops the "towels on the beds mentality". Ironically the famous P&O non-common sense rule comes into play here as well. We had a massive balcony with two tiny non-reclining chairs and a small table. If all the balconies had had decent seating the pressure on the sun beds on deck would have been alleviated. We warned the reception desk on the second day that using automatic hand cleaning dispensers in the buffet instead of the good old method of a member of the crew proffering it would lead to a Norovirus outbreak and it did on the fourth day. Drinks menus disappeared, as did salt & pepper cellars and the buffet was served to you. In fact anything that might transfer germs. Another classic case of stable doors and horses bolting! The only exception was the ice cream vendor who continued to use his fingers to add sprigs of mint to ice creams at all times. Even after we reported it twice!! The reception desk needs a special mention. An example..and by no means the only one. We complained about our TV not working five times. Eventually an office came down and told us it wasn't working. Duh! In the end I fixed it myself by rebooting the interactive system. Whatever was said to reception went in one ear and out of the other. A classic "lights on but nobody home". The dinner menus have lost the option to have a steak, chicken, salmon option to the table d'hôte although I am informed it is still available on a wink wink nudge nudge system. The problem with a bigger ship becomes apparent in port. Getting on and off is more difficult with longer queues. At tender ports especially this resulted in long waits onshore to get back to the ship. I have seen a review of this cruise already which was basically thumbs down but they did make the point that if people didn't like the kids why cruise on a Family Friendly ship. I think the point was missed. We don't mind well behaved children on a cruise. We used to take ours. But this is a ship where any complaint about children is greeted by the response that it is "up to the parents". In this day and age that is laughable. And what adult would risk going into a small pool filled with children in today's climate...not I for one. Children rule on this ship. And they will do until next season when P&O will see the cancellations and the poor bookings and think again. We had 230 children on board. I was told this will increase to 600 in the school holidays. I pity anyone sailing on Ventura then. God bless Aurora...she still has children...but is never taken over by them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and ... Read More
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and attentive.The food was overall abysmal, certainly the worst we have had on any cruise ship. It is the very first time I have been on a cruise and not had a decent steak in the restaurant. The Windjammer Buffet was not very good either. The presentation of the food was pathetic and the same every day very little variation.      They seem to do some very strange things. Although there were nearly four passengers they closed half the Winjammer and only used one side most of the time, consequently there was a shortage of tables. Why ? no one seemed to know.       One day whilst in the Med they stopped the use of balconies so they could be cleaned.......why not do this in cooler climes when the balconies were not being used ?       Also while in the Med on a beautiful day the closed part of the pool area for CLEANING and Varnishing !!!!!       The cost of everything was very expensive ( $6.50 for a can of Buds...almost a fiver)$29.99 for 1 hour on the internet.       They must actually have got embarrassed at on stage as they were charging $12 for a trip into Livorno town and decided to refund $4 and charge only $8.       We only met one couple on the ship that were satisfied customers ( and we strongly suspected that was because they had a relative working onboard)       We were on the Grand Princess last year wnd the difference was remarkable it would have been difficult to fault anything on that ship.        By the way we agree with the Daily Telegraph reviewer, there are only lifts at the front and rear of the ship and it is a hell of a long walk to get your meals if you are not situated near the rear.        Maybe just too big !!!!!!!              Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
We are an active couple in our 50's and this was our 12th cruise, the first time on Princess. Most of our previous cruises have been on Holland America. This is probably the only cruise we will do on Princess. Maybe it was just this ... Read More
We are an active couple in our 50's and this was our 12th cruise, the first time on Princess. Most of our previous cruises have been on Holland America. This is probably the only cruise we will do on Princess. Maybe it was just this ship but Princess just doesn't compare with Holland America. Our trip started off in London and we got transfers to the ship from the Victoria Coach Station because we had spent a few days before in London. We were told that information on where to meet our transfer would be posted on the board at the station. Wrong! If it wasn't for the Celebrity Cruise Line Representative there we would have had a hard time because no one at the station seemed to know about the Sea Princess and it was never posted on any board. Princess doesn't have a representative there, the bus driver just comes in at the appointed time and announces the transfer. There were only a few people besides us there to get the transfer. Not a good start! Embarkation was easy and we were quickly in our cabin. We had a balcony cabin and as other reviews said it is much smaller than other balcony cabins we've had on other ships, as is the bathroom, balcony and storage. The cabin was slightly worn looking with stains, cracks and worn carpet. Our fellow passengers on this cruise were 1800 British and 150 Americans (we are American). That would not have been an issue except that it seemed like most of the British were smokers, so smoke was an issue. You couldn't sit at the pool without having smokers all around you, the bars were smoky and even our balcony had smoke from our neighbors. Most of the people on this cruise too were 75 yrs. and older. We had a LOT of wheelchairs, motorized cars, walkers and canes. Four days into the cruise the ship became infected with a virus so it changed how things were done on the ship. While the crew did a great job of keeping the virus from spreading, it got to be somewhat annoying to have to have everything served to you in the buffet lines. The Horizon Court is not laid out well and it gets very crowded and congested but especially when everything had to be served lines got very long. They did not vacuum the ship for 10 days, laundry rooms were closed, ice had to be requested, it was not replaced daily by the room steward as it was in the first couple days, some activities were stopped and salt and pepper and sugar were taken off the tables to name a few of the precautions that they took. Since the cruise seems to attract a lot of British passengers it is understandable that there would be a lot of British food (especially for breakfast) and mostly British entertainment, but we got a little bored with the breakfast choices--they never changed and the entertainment was BAD, except for the band that played at the pool everyday, Skyline, was very good. The entertainment in the Wheelhouse Bar was good but the bar was too smoky to spend much time in. The "Movies Under the Stars" is great except the movies were pretty old--"Grease and Top Gun". The service was good but not exceptional, the crew was not nearly as friendly and fun as we've experienced on other ships. The food was good in the dining room but not great in the Horizon Court. There was a lot of variety in the dining room but nothing was outstanding. The desserts were disappointing. The grill by the pool had some of the best food. We've enjoyed the Alternative Dining on other ships but didn't try the Sterling Steakhouse on this ship because they just curtained off a part of the Horizon Court (Buffet) for the steakhouse at night. We did like the anytime dining and were always able to get a table by the window. The waiters did not seem as rushed in the anytime dining as we've found in the traditional dining. We enjoyed our cruise but there just wasn't anything amazing about this ship or Princess that would make us want to do another Princess cruise. We'll stick with Holland. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise, having sailed on P&O previously, but with a three generation party we were tempted by the facilities on offer on the Navigator. First impressions were good - boarding, even on such a large ... Read More
This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise, having sailed on P&O previously, but with a three generation party we were tempted by the facilities on offer on the Navigator. First impressions were good - boarding, even on such a large ship, was effortless, and the ship's public areas were clean and well-appointed. Our cabin was spacious and seemed to provide more for the money than P&O. A high point for us was the gym. It had 20 treadmills, which were well-maintained , and even repaired en route, plus cycles, cross trainers and weights. We also signed up for a programme of spin classes, which were among the best we've been to on land or sea. The ship was large and had clearly been filled by discounting. We spent a lot of time in our spacious cabin as it was a haven from the overcrowding in the public areas, where tattooed obese smokers took up all the available space. One evening at around 11pm we tried every public room on the ship to get a seat and could not find one. The large ship also moved alarmingly in not particularly rough seas. The Captain informed us that the Bay of Biscay would have rough seas in 30 knot winds, which didn't alarm us too much, but we were all very seasick, despite having seen much worse conditions on smaller ships. Catering was variable. Dinner in the main dining room had clearly been formulated with American customers in mind, so coffee came before the dessert, and our waitress was efficient but insincerely familiar. Some nights we would be treated to the waiters singing, a feature which increased in frequency as tipping time came closer. Some people clearly like this sort of thing but we prefer to finish our meal quietly. Food was plentiful, but managed to be both bland and salty at the same time. Grilled meat was OK, but anything else was too ambitious. Breakfast and buffet lunches in the Windjammer displayed a huge variety, and crowd management was very efficient. We preferred room service breakfast, which gave us the chance to enjoy our large cabin, but was a little haphazard in what actually turned up. On the subject of drinks, RCI has a very American nanny state approach to alcohol consumption which is probably motivated as much by economics as concern for our safety. I suspect many British cruisers enjoy a sundowner in their cabin, but it is not possible to buy spirits for on board consumption and a team of heavies are poised at every port to relieve passengers of any on shore purchases. I'm afraid we resorted to smuggling, but being treated like a criminal when you've spent a five figure sum to go on holiday is not on. Service on board was disappointing to anyone used to the imperial style of P&O. Our cabin steward cleaned the room but that was it, and bar staff clearly hated being out of the Caribbean. Bar tariffs include 15% service charge but that doesn't stop waiters hanging around intimidatingly for tips. Fortunately on board prices in dollars made them cheap for sterling tourists this year. It's very hard to get out of the compulsory tipping regime. We wanted to tip our waiter and steward - they have a tough job - but we didn't feel the need to tip our head waiter. However unless you opt out of all tips you have to tip everyone RCI thinks you should. Be prepared for this or carry a load of dollars or sterling in cash, as cashing cheques on board is not possible. A number of other reviewers have commented on having to pay for shuttle buses into ports. We found taxis, where you were allowed to use them (and sometimes there was a shuttle bus monopoly) were cheaper and, like the alcohol policy, showed RCI's aim is to fill the ship as cheaply as possible then whack on as many extras as they can. For such a young style ship children's facilities were really poor. Our children (14 and 12) hung around with a gang of others, but never returned to the kids' club, where activities were poorly organized by badly motivated staff. Perhaps we're too traditional for RCI but we were very disappointed overall. The ship is set up to take Americans round the Caribbean, so the staff clearly hate a season in rainy Europe, and there is not enough space inside on bad weather days. We missed being treated as special and we'll be back on P&O next year Read Less
Sail Date June 2007

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